Eminent Domain is a deck building card game of space domination. Each player plays as an empire of human explorers who are colonizing or conquering (depending on each player’s style/strategy) planets in an effort to have the most prestigious empire in the galaxy. Each turn a player may play an action from their deck, then they draft a new card from the central display and add as many cards of that type from their hand as they can to perform that card type’s role. These range from harvesting and trading resources, discovering new planets, amassing battlecruisers and conquering planets, and colonizing and settling planets. The more symbols of a like type played per turn the better. Players may also choose to develop new technology which adds bonuses to the previous categories after they meet the necessary criteria: the right number of research symbols and the appropriate number of planets of a certain type (fertile, advanced, or metallic). The winner is the player who possess the most victory points through their collections of planets, traded goods, and technology when the predetermined stack(s) of cards are depleted from the central display.
Deckbuilding games are a huge corner of the tabletop industry, and, frankly, Eminent Domain isn’t much different mechanically from Dominion or Legendary or any number of other card games, and yet it still deserves a space in everyone’s collection because… well… it’s fun. When I play a session of Eminent Domain I’m transported to a galaxy of battlecruisers and terraforming and uncharted territories. The theme is just abstract enough to allow me to paste my own SFF ideas onto my experience, and, while I love Marvel comics and Medieval Europe, Legendary and Dominion just don’t offer the same thematic fluff and opportunity to fancy myself a mad, war-obsessed galactic empire.
The components of Eminent Domain greatly contribute to the worldbuilding of this game, too. The box is full of thirty-five assorted plastic fighter tokens. They are of three increasingly larger sizes and can be used to denote 1/5/10 values, but they don’t have to. Invariably, when I play I lay them out in my play area in varying flight formations and always make *pew pew* sounds when I conquer a new planet through the warfare action. The fighters’ sizes do have significance in the rules of the Escalation expansion, but in the base game anything goes. The base game also comes with twenty-four wooden resource tokens of various colors representing food, silicon, etc.). Again, there are a few technologies that allow bonuses for trading certain resource types, but for the most part, the attention to detail int he contents adds more fluff than functionality, which adds to a richer, more immersive game play in the Eminent Domain universe.
There are so many SFF properties with expansive, fascinating universes with great games to match, but unlike Pathfinder or Warhammer 40K, or even Munchkin, Eminent Domain has a sort of plucky charm that just entrances me. Luckily, Tasty Minstrel Games has keyed into this need for expansive, immersive game play by adding several games to the Eminent Domain family with a microgame version of the original, one expansion already published, and another expansion, Exotica, on Kickstarter right now alongside Battlecruisers, a simultaneous action selection card game set among the conquering star ships from the original game, that looks incredibly cool. Now, if only someone would pay Dan Abnett to write a novelization Seth Jaffe’s universe would be complete.